As we reach the end of the tree planting season, you can’t help but notice the swollen buds on the tips of trees, ready to burst open; new leaves muffling the sound of traffic and providing us with views that cheer. These leaves give promise of shady spot to sit and be on sunny summer days.

This winter, the 100,000th tree was planted for the NHS Forest, thanks to the incredible work of staff and volunteers across the NHS. This country-wide ‘forest’ brightens the everyday experience of staff and patients, supports wildlife, brings people into contact with nature and benefits health and wellbeing.

What 100,000 trees have done for the NHS

“Lots more staff spend time near the trees, meetings, lunch, contemplations… We found chairs placed in quiet corners, bird boxes were made to hang on the trees, It’s been magical.”

– NHS Forest site

In autumn, we asked our NHS Forest sites what difference their trees had made to their grounds, and to the people that use them. They responded:

It is inspiring to hear the benefits that tree planting can bring. We’ve been listening to your feedback and reading your Green Plans for a net zero health service, to understand more about how we can help you.

We’re giving away trees

This year, we are making it even easier to join the growing number of NHS estates supporting the health of people and the planet through planting trees.

So, whether you want your trees for a Primary Care Network, trust, ICS, or ambulance station, we hope we have something for you – you can request your trees today.

Why plant trees on your healthcare site?

“These trees will create value for nature, shade for patients and staff, and carbon sequestration. Triple win!”

– NHS Forest site

As we look to adapt to the effects of climate change, we need trees more than ever.

North East and North Cumbria ICS’s Green Plan highlights the role of trees on the NHS estate: “There are potential synergies between climate adaptation measures and providing therapeutical green space on NHS sites, for example planting trees to provide shade or gardens designed to absorb excess stormwater.”

We know from our ‘Space to Breathe’ research that NHS staff want to access outside spaces during their working day, and that this has positive impacts on staff health and wellbeing.

When we consider health inequalities and the impacts of the climate crisis, the potential of the NHS green estate in addressing this is clear. Trees are very much a part of that, in helping to prevent harm.

Trees lower temperatures

Between April 2020 and March 2021, NHS trusts across England reported 4,131 incidents when ward or other clinical area temperatures rose above 26°C – the point at which a risk assessment needs to be conducted and vulnerable patients protected.

During the record-breaking hot summer of 2022, there were almost 3,300 excess deaths in England and Wales, with the greatest numbers occurring during the heatwaves. It is estimated that the number of heat-related deaths in the UK could reach 7,040 per year by 2050.

Trees can play a significant role in reducing temperatures inside NHS buildings, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning, and helping to achieve net zero.

The memorial garden at Broomfield Hospital, Essex
Trees create a secluded memorial garden at Broomfield Hospital, Essex. Photo: Carey Newson / Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).
Wildflower meadow in front of Southmead Hospital, Bristol
At Southmead Hospital, patients can view trees from windows, and wards are shaded. Photo: Vicki Brown / Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Trees improve air quality

In the UK, air pollution poses the largest environmental risk to public health. Roughly 28,000-36,000 people die every year in the UK as a result of human-made air pollution. Between 2017 and 2025, it is estimated that the total cost to the NHS and social care system of air pollutants (fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide), for which there is robust evidence for an association, will be £1.6 billion. Trees play a crucial role in reducing exposure to air pollutants and therefore preventing harm.

There are so many reasons to plant trees across the NHS – we would love for you to join us as we expand the NHS Forest.

Why will you plant yours?

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